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Patterning Your Shotgun: A Complete How to Guide

October 26, 2017

Patterning Your Shotgun: A Complete How to Guide

Before you head off to the duck blind or into the woods, have you taken all the necessary steps to ensure your hunt will be as successful as possible? You stocked up on ammo, maybe invested in some new gear, practiced your calls. But have you overlooked the one step that could make or break your season?

Why It’s Important to Pattern Your Shotgun

In the field, when you have a target in sight and pull the trigger, you want to be confident your shot stream sprays where you intended. That’s not the time to wonder if your new gun shoots straight or you’re using the right choke. The only way to know this for certain is to take the time to pattern your shotgun.

How to Pattern Your Shotgun

What You Will Need:

  • Butcher or kraft paper
  • String
  • Ruler
  • Pencil
  • Ear an eye protection
  • A few different types of ammunition

Step One. Set up your target about 25 yards down range. Be sure your range is clear and safe to shoot. Place a mark in the center of the paper to use to line up your sight.

Step Two. Select a choke you think will give you the most concentration of pellets on the target at that distance. You may have to try a few different types of chokes and compare the results to find the best combination.

Step Three. Go to your shooting position load one shell at a time. Don’t forget to put on your ear and eye protection!

Step Four. Line up your sights on your target and fire one round. Leave your gun in the open position, walk down range and remove the first target. Be sure to label the target with choke, load, and distance.

Step Five. Repeat this process at least two more times. If you have the time, shoot a few more. The more patterns you have, the more accurate your results will be. If you are testing multiple types of ammo or chokes, you will need to repeat this process every time you switch.

Step Six. Repeat these steps at 35 and 45 yards.

How to Analyze Your Patterning Results

Lay your targets out in the order they were shot. Compare the center of the target you drew with the actual center of the pattern your gun created. This tells you where your shot is going once it leaves the barrel.

Using your ruler, string, and pencil, draw a 30” circle, measuring from the densest part of the spray out. Count the number of pellet holes inside your circle. Mark each hole as you go so you don’t lose count.

Cut open an unused shell and count the number of pellets inside. Divide the number of holes in your pattern by the number of pellets in your cartridge to figure the percentage of pellets hitting the target. You’re looking for a combination that produces the following pattern at the desired distance.

  • Full Choke: 70%
  • Improved Modified: 65%
  • Modified: 55%
  • Quarter Choke: 50%
  • Improved Cylinder: 45%
  • Cylinder: 40%

If your pattern produces less than desired results, try adjusting the type of the shot, the weight of the shot charge, buffer or muzzle velocity.

Other Elements that Can Affect Patterning

Of course, there are always other outside variables that can affect patterning performance. These include whether the shotgun was fired from a rest or by hand, reloading device used, barrel length, shot size, type of pellets, weather conditions, and powder age and batch.

Patterning your shotgun is an easy process. However, it does require little time to produce accurate results. Make the investment before your first hunt to ensure a successful season.

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